Current Issue ·
Mama, This Ain't Utopia After All - Or What Coretext
Means to Me
How fitting that we begin the 21st century in almost diametrically-opposed
reality to the science fiction fantasy that preceded the turning of the
The classical images, circa 1920, of what the 21st century was supposed
to be like this anachronistic nostalgia for the future would never have
stood up to scrutiny, and those of us born in the latter half of the 20th
century knew this. We knew that the images that came from The Jetsons or
Arthur C. Clarke were more fun than prediction, more commentary than strategy.
We are not all zooming around on our private skycrafts (though some are),
we are not wearing expensive silvery clothes (though some are), we do not
have jobs that simply require us to push a button all day (though some
do), we are not cloning ourselves for spare parts (though some are), and
people certainly are not living in space-pods (though four are).
No, for us, the future was about convenience and fairness. It was about
doing your job in 30 hours a week, and having more time for your friends
and family. It was about wiping out discrimination and bigotry. It was
about the paperless office that would allow us to conserve trees. It was
about finding new ways to participate in the shaping of society. It was
about healing faster when we got sick, and healing everyone, not just those
who could afford it. And it was about letting the artist in each of us
break through, even while we still made our fortunes. In other words, our
future was about living in contradiction.
How ironic then that we find ourselves at the start of this new century,
and if anything our socio-technological bubble is bursting, as if our own
disbelief in the predictions of our own future has lead to its dismantling
self-fulfilling prophecy. Were working more hours than ever before. Tech
stocks are crashing as much as the computers themselves. Cell phones have
become the new nuisance in shared public spaces like movie theatres. Content
still hasnt really caught on in a way that allows its creators to thrive,
unless youre Disney or AOL and own everything. Laptop computers are assembled
by slave labour in a third world country, aided by free trade and the diminishing
power of world governments. Our devices, while becoming continuously smaller,
may soon live inside us. And surveillance, that fine little plan that would
make us good folk safer, has turned its watchful eye onto us now, peering
into our lives in ways that allow it to be re-sold for entertainment at
the highest of prices.
It wasnt supposed to be like this.
But it isnt Brave New World. Not at all. Many artists and activists,
historically on the fringes of society, think the view from here at this
point in our history is kind of interesting. Your crashing stocks (which
most of us could never afford anyway) give us ideas for meetings. The peering
surveillance cameras are something we turn into an exhibition. We explore
disconnection on the Internet, the organic in the mechanical, the soul
in the clone and the big picture through the microscope. We use cell phones
manufactured by trans-national corporations to rally thousands of people
to a demonstration to oust a corrupt president in the Philippines.
At the connecting point in which art, culture and technology intersects
with the issues of the contemporary world is where we offer Coretext. We
created this space because we think that what is happening is not just
about art on its own, or technology on its own, or even the new activism
by itself, but by all of these things being affected by our slowly waking
up from our fantasies of what we thought the 21st century might be about.
Not about nostalgia for the past either that predictable trap of left-wing
politics but about trying to understand what is happening in a way that
allows us to reclaim our responsibility for it.
Many of us spent the 1990s arguing the issues of identity politics,
and as Naomi Klein points out, completely missed the fact that while we
were fighting for fairer representation of peoples in society and its media,
society and its media itself were being sold off. The age of identity politics
is slowly drawing to a close, and what is being asked of all people of
good will is a new focus from argument to action. We offer Coretext as
a place where you can come to read about things and people - artists, thinkers,
technologists - who aren't satisfied with the preached western utopian
visions of our contemporary age, and might have something else to say through
their work and their words. We invite you to participate.